Sunday, September 28, 2008

Week 2 - The come back

Another good week, another good long run; 12 miles, starting at 5AM this morning. Although the calendar says Autumn, it is still hot here in Phoenix. At 5AM, 90 minutes before sun up, the air was a very warm 82F (28C) and slightly humid, at least by central Arizona standards. I'm really looking forward to cooler mornings, but that will have to wait a few more weeks.

I left my lab home this morning, concerned with his ability to keep running for 2 hours without water. He got up this morning with me at 4:30, but seemed to be happy to go back to bed following his breakfast. He just doesn't think about running when it's still seriously dark outside; of course, he'll eat at any time.

Without the dog, I was free to go anywhere, so I headed east. The wind was blowing softly, but there wasn't even a hint of coolness in the air. I took the first mile very slow and barely got my HR over 120, this while running up a shallow incline for most of the mile. Around about 1.5 miles, I crested the hill and picked up the pace on the second mile, driving my HR up to 135, which has become my de facto standard for aerobic running, at least during the first half of my runs. I continued east for another mile, before turning north, initiating a large 4 mile loop to the east of my usual haunts. There was no one out this earlier this morning. No runners, no walkers and only a few cars; it was kind of peaceful.

Mile 3 through 5 whizzed by. I sped up on the down hills and slowed down on the up hills, but kept my HR at 135 (+/- 3). Around mile 5, something changed and my HR crept up to 140. Since I wasn't paying any attention to pace, I hadn't realized that I was speeding up and I actually ran mile 5 in 9:34. In fact, I'd been speeding up mile after mile through the first 5. I slowed down on mile 6 to get my HR back to 135, but let it drift back up to 140 on mile 7 and 8 as I looped back to the spot where I had cached my water bottles. I stopped for a few seconds to guzzle half a water bottle before heading out for the last 4 miles.

Mile 9 was OK, but I really struggled on mile 10. Nothing specific mind you. No aches, no pains ... my body was just getting tired of running. Although I had ignored my Garmin for nearly 100 minutes, I found myself checking it every few seconds as I approached the 10 mile mark. It would be so easy to stop. I was less than a mile from home and 10 isn't such a bad number. It's better than 9 or 8 or 7 ....

Finally, I got a grip and powered through the rest of mile. After that, I stopped looking at everything and just ran. Finishing up miles 11 and 12 in 9:34 and 9:44 respectively. Pretty cool run overall.

Mile Splits: 10:45, 9:55, 9:55, 9:42, 9:35, 10:04, 9:45, 9:55, 9:39, 10:54, 9:34, 9:44; AVG=9:58/mi


MON: Rest
TUE: 6.4 miles, Aerobic: 10:06/mi; HR avg=136, peak=144
WED: Rest
THR: 8.1 miles, Aerobic: 10:28/mi; HR avg=137, peak=151
FRI: 2.3 miles, Hills: 13:03/mi; HR avg=122, peak=173
SAT: 4.9 miles, Recovery: 10:26/mi; HR avg=127, peak=142
SUN: 12.0 miles, Long: 9:58; HR avg=137, peak=150

WEEK TOTAL: 33.7 Miles
Weight: 188.5 lbs

A very good week of running.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

In Search of MHR

Now that I'm feeling a bit better about my running, I set out on Friday afternoon to figure out where my Max HR was nowadays. The last time I measured it 2 years ago using the routine outlined below, I was somewhere just north on 172. Not exactly world class, but certainly better than the much used (and much discredited) 220-AGE.

At 3 in the afternoon, I trundled off to the gym and after a brief 15 minute warm up, repeated the following exercise twice

Elevation: 10%
Pace: 9:13/mi
Distance: 0.3 miles
Recovery: slow jog for 0.2 miles at 0% elevation

The first run up the hill went smooth enough. My HR quickly shot up to 150+ and then slowly inched its way through the 160s. By the time it hit 170, my quads were burning and the my eyes were fixated on the treadmill's distance window. The MaxHR achieved at end of the first rep: 172 BPM.

During the recovery jog, I questioned my role in the cosmos and gave serious consideration to returning to a more sedentary life style, but eventually, I caught my breath and cranked up the treadmill for another go.

This time, my HR leaped to the low 160s without difficulty and ticked up to 170 by the time I got 0.2mi into the run. 171, 172, 173, 173, 173, 173, 174, 173, 173, 173, 173 ... WE HAVE A WINNER: 173. I nearly fell off the machine and stopped well short of 0.3 miles .. although I really wasn't paying any attention to the distance. I was simply trying to stay on the machine and fight with the several voices within my Id.

For now, I'll stick with 173 and learn to love it. My resting HR has come down from 52 to 47 over the past several weeks, so overall, I'm pretty happy.

Went for a hike in the hills near my house late Friday afternoon and snapped a few photos. Take care, I'll have a summary out on Sunday following my long run.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The rest of my life - Week 1

As Hervé Villechaize used to shout at the beginning of that hackneyed TV show in the late'70s, "it's dee plan, dee plan", or something close to that. Well Hervé, it really is all about sticking with the plan; and this time around, I like the plan likes me.

This week, I ran 4 runs of 5.2 miles, 6.3 miles, 4.5 miles and 10.6 miles; three run in my Aerobic zone and one recovery run, run slightly slower. I've also lost a few pounds and I'm now back down to where I was last September; still to high to be sure, but heading in the right direction.


MON: Rest
TUE: 5.2 miles, Aerobic: 10:20/mi; HR avg=135, peak=144
WED: Rest
THR: 6.3 miles, Aerobic: 10:18/mi; HR avg=132, peak=142
FRI: Rest
SAT: 4.5 miles, Recovery: 10:25; HR avg=121, peak=137
SUN: 10.6 miles, Long: 10:02; HR avg=138, peak=155

WEEK TOTAL: 26.6 Miles
Weight: 186.5 lbs

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


It's a new day and I've come to grips with my less than stellar performance this weekend. Obviously, I'm not in the best of shape and nothing I've done since I ran the San Diego R&R Marathon in June 2007 has improved the situation. Change is definitely in order, but before I get to that, I need to add one more significant event to my tale of woe.

After I got done whining and published my race report on Sunday, I got thinking about my friend Bill. I've known Bill for a very long time. We work in the same industry. We are the same age and the same height. We do similar work and he travels as much, if not more, than I do; in other words, we match up evenly in terms of external stresses. Two years ago, we even matched up fairly well on the race course. I beat him in a tough race up Mingus Mountain over Labor Day weekend in 2006 and then two weeks later we raced again in the same 10K as the one I raced on Sunday.

We traded places for the first 5 miles and ran well together until mile 6 when he was able to out-kick me to the finish.


Bill - 20th overall; 45:55
Phil - 21st overall; 46:09

Bill and I ran the same race again this weekend, but the results were a little different.


Bill - 24th overall; 42:39
Phil - 85th overall; 53:48

No excuses, I'm heading the wrong way. So what am I going to do about it?

RESOLVED: Set a goal. I set my club's little marathon on 30 January 09 as my next big race goal. This marathon is an out and back over a very pretty desert course. It's hill, but no too hilly; loosing 350 feet over the last 9 miles. Last year 45 people competed; but fortunately there are lots of people finishing in the 3:50 to 4:00 range, so I'll have plenty of company. If any of you want to run with me, let me know.

RESOLVED: Establish a plan. I've had great luck with Pete Pfitzinger's basic 55MPH Plan; however, I know I'm not in shape to give this another go as written. But I really like week over variety, as well as the way Pete layers one element of training on top of the next. I took the plan as an outline and scaled the distances back to something I could handle now. I even typed the whole thing (all 20 weeks) into my on-line log to remind me what I need to do day over day. I think this will work.

RESOLVED: Return to the basics. I know how to get in shape, I've done it and I've written; heck, I've even pontificated on your blogs by leaving lengthy comments to address simply questions. I will return to the basics, starting with Base Building 101A.

RESOLVED: Run Recovery Runs as recovery runs. I shall slow down and run recovery runs at a HR<135. No more cheating. No rushing to finish just because it feels good. I will stick with the right run at the right time.

RESOLVED: Run general Aerobic Runs as aerobic runs. Right now, I can't run sub 9/mi and stay in an aerobic range and trying to do so only leads to frustration and injury. I will rejoice as my avg pace slowly improves over the next several months as my cardio-vascular condition improves. I shall keep my HR between 130 and 145 BPM

RESOLVED: Manage training load increases. Do not increase training load too quickly. I shall not increase my mileage by more than 10% per week, nor shall I increase my weekly "long" runs by more that 10% per week. I'm very familiar with the drill, just need to live it.

RESOLVED: Be honest about my progress. I've never written anything untruthful in this blog, I've just chosen to not write at all when things haven't gone well. Ironically, one the great powers of blogging is the knowledge that a few of you are out there reading and expecting results. I shall not disappoint you.


MON: Rest
TUE: 5.2 miles, Aerobic: avg pace=10:20/mi, avg HR=135, peak HR=144

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Single Digits

I've never had a single digit bib number before this morning. These are usually reserved for the elites (or at least the really speedy folks), so I felt special when I got to my club's annual membership race and picked up #6 as a bib number. I thought it had to be a good omen. I'd done nearly everything right for this race: hydrated well over the past 4 days; ate smart over the last week (no alcohol, good balance of veggies, carbs and protein, etc); slept 8 hours last night; ate a decent breakfast early this morning, ....

It should have been my race. The last time I ran this race, back in 2006, I finished in 46:00. I hadn't expected to run that fast this time. In Sept 2006, I weighed 174lb; this morning, I was closer to 190lb (I didn't actually have the courage to stand on the scale). Although 46:00 was too ambitious and I knew I wasn't going to get near my PR, I thought 50:00 was within my grasp ... that turned out to be little more than wishful thinking.

Every September, my club has a membership race at Horse Lovers Park in the far north end of Phoenix. The race is free for club members and $20 for everyone else; the catch is that your entry form is a also a membership application and the entry fee is the first year's club dues (there are lots of smart folks running this club). The race is a 5K / 10K looped event, mostly run on wide dirt trails. The weather this morning was tolerable; gentle winds, low humidity, and temperatures just under 80F (26C) at the 7:15AM gun time. Really nice.

I got to the event at 6:15, picked up my race bib, grabbed my camera and headed out for a slow 3 mile warm up just as the sun was coming up over the horizon. I got passed by several runners along the way, but kept it real and just focused on my warm up and stopped to take pictures along the way. I got back to my car, stowed my camera and jog over to the start line with 10 minutes to spare. So far, so good.

The gun went off and I held back. My strategy (such as it was) was to run 8 minute miles and try to finish south of 50 minutes. Runners streamed by me on the first mile but I passed the MI 1 marker right on target at 8:03; . I tucked in behind a woman on mile 2 and passed the MI 2 marker in 8:04 - still on track. With plenty of nice people running around me, beautiful weather and a nice flat course, I had no complaints. However, mile 3 was different.

The lady I was tailing pulled away and my breathing became labored. Thoughts of running over the timing mats at the end of the first loop and calling it quits at 5K bounced around in my head. Focus, focus, focus ... you can do this ... no you can't stop now, save yourself ...

I passed to the right of the finish line and headed out on the 2nd 5K loop; completing the first 5K in 25:52. I'd already blown any chance of running a sub-50 10K and instead switch my object to something far easier: running the 2nd 5K at MP (8:48/mi). Surely I could plod along at my old MP for 3 miles.

I more or less held my own on mile 4, running an 8:46, but got passed by a guy pushing a 3 wheeled stroller early on mile 5. That really took the wind out of my sails. I also got passed by a guy my age and a couple of women I recognized from the start of the race at the same time. I immediately sped up to hang with them, but got dropped off the back of the pack within 5 minutes. All I could do was watch them slowly pull away from me. Mile 5 -- 8:51.

Mile 6. What can I say about mile 6. I questioned my sanity, my love of running, my purpose in the cosmos, and just about everything else; and I was alone. Most of the racers this morning evidently ran the 5K, because there was no one behind me and only the small cluster of runners from mile 5 in front of me. I had the distinct feeling that I was going to finish LAST. Yes, I know someone has to be last in every race and this morning, it really felt like it was my turn. The MI 6 marker came and went: 9:06. Yes folks, I couldn't hold a sub 9/mi mile. This was not for lack of trying. I just didn't have anything in the tank.

Official Time: 53:48
Official Overall Place: 84/161
Official Gender Place: 62/99

I'm not looking for any sympathy and I have no excuses; but this was my slowest 10K ever and only the second 10K over 50 min. The last time I ran a 50+ 10K was November 2002 when I finished my first ever 10K in 50:40.

I need to put this race behind me and get back to my base training. My next 10K is scheduled for November. I've got 8 weeks to pull myself together and get with the program. I can do it.

I thought I'd finish on a positive note and leave you with a few pictures from this morning:

The Start Line at 6:30 AM

This woman passed me on my warm up. We were running due west as the sun was rising and the long shadow of pony tail swinging behind her as she approached me was rather ominous.

Yours truly with plenty of attitude before the race.

Most of the course looks like this. Soft dirt, short brush, plenty of blue sky.

The 4 mile marker with Piestewa Peak in the background.

Take care